Calls for mayor of Hartlepool to resign after revelations he lied about a funeral to attend a civic event

The Mayor of Hartlepool, Councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher
The Mayor of Hartlepool, Councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher

HARTLEPOOL Ceremonial Mayor Stephen Akers-Belcher is facing fresh calls to resign following revelations about the reason for his sacking from his day job.

A group of five councillors are seeking an extraordinary meeting of the full council to debate the matter when a vote of no confidence could be put.

The Mayor of Hartlepool and his consort visited HMS Warrior in Portsmouths Historic Dockyard where they were given a guided tour of the ship which was restored in Hartlepool. (left to right), the mayors consort Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, The Mayor of Hartlepool councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher, shipwright Bob Daubney and Ken Jones who is the captain of HMS Warrior.  Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (14122-4)

The Mayor of Hartlepool and his consort visited HMS Warrior in Portsmouths Historic Dockyard where they were given a guided tour of the ship which was restored in Hartlepool. (left to right), the mayors consort Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, The Mayor of Hartlepool councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher, shipwright Bob Daubney and Ken Jones who is the captain of HMS Warrior. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (14122-4)

Coun Akers-Belcher was fired from Newcastle City Council last July after the council said he was given paid leave to attend a funeral but instead went to a function in his civic role.

Read more: Mayor was sacked for attending civic event after telling bosses he was going to a funeral

Questions have also been raised after Coun Akers-Belcher this week told the Mail he did not attend an employment tribunal hearing on March 9 this year when his claim for unfair dismissal was struck out because he was not well enough to attend.

But it emerged that he took part in a Hartlepool Borough Council meeting on that day, when candidates for the post of new chief executive were interviewed.

Coun Jonathan Brash said in an email to council Chief Executive Dave Stubbs and Chief Solicitor Peter Devlin: “All of this leads me to the, widely held, view that he is simply not fit for office.

This leads me to the view that he is simply not fit for office

Coun Jonathan Brash

“To that end the council has a duty to take action, even if the only thing we are legally able to do is record a vote of no confidence in him.

“I would therefore like to request an extraordinary meeting of full council, to take place within five working days to debate this matter, the implications for the council and our standing in the region and consider a vote of no confidence in Stephen Akers-Belcher, pursuant specifically to his role as a councillor.”

Coun David Riddle added: “As I said well over a year ago, it’s abundantly clear he is not fit for public office.

“People perhaps thought when we called for him to resign months ago it was for political reasons, it wasn’t.

“It was because we could see this coming and we knew the embarrassment it would cause to the council and the town as a whole.

“The reputation of our councillors is in the gutter and he is the primary reason.”

The request for a meeting has also been backed by councillors Stephen Gibbon, Geoff Lilley and Paul Thompson.

Meanwhile, an online petition calling for Coun Akers-Belcher to resign has been signed by more than 300 people.

It states: “He has brought the role of councillor into disrepute following his dismissal from his employment from Newcastle [City] Council for ‘gross misconduct’.”

Coun Akers-Belcher, who represents Manor House ward, said: “As far as I’m concerned it’s a private matter.”

He claims he was sacked as team leader within the council’s Community Mental Health Service for whistle blowing.

He said he was ousted after he raised a number of concerns about the authority’s protection of vulnerable adults.

It has been strongly denied by Newcastle City Council.

Coun Brash said the formal request for an extraordinary meeting will go to the council on Monday.

But the council has said it may have to wait until after the elections because of restrictions.

A Hartlepool council spokesman said: “A formal request may be made – signed by at least five councillors – to call an Extraordinary Meeting of the Full Council.

“However, given that the Council is now in the period leading to the elections on May 7 – a period during which there are some national restrictions on local authorities’ activities – an Extraordinary Meeting of the Full Council should only be held on an appropriate day following those elections.”

Earlier this week Coun Akers-Belcher said he had not done anything wrong and would not be resigning.